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Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
June 14, 1861


Richmond Enquirer
June 18, 1861

From information received here it may be safely stated that on Friday night or Saturday morning, General Johnston withdrew from Harper’s Ferry, with nearly all his forces, for the purpose of advancing upon Gen. McClellan who is threatening him, from the direction of Romney, at the head, as is stated, of 15,000 men.

If this be so, we may expect soon to hear of an important engagement in the vicinity of Romney.

It is also stated that the forces which were approaching Harper’s Ferry from the Maryland side, numbered 22,000 men. These will probably be kept in check by the batteries on the Virginia heights.

The bridges at Harper’s Ferry were destroyed by our forces; also the public buildings, the machinery and property being first removed, except a small quantity of corn, which was destroyed.

It may be interesting to state, that not a bridge remains on the Potomac from Georgetown to Cumberland.


Richmond Enquirer
June 19, 1861

Frederick, June 14—Midnight—The special agent of the Associated Press has just returned from the Maryland heights overlooking Harper’s Ferry, which point he left after 7 o’clock this evening. The Confederated army has mainly left the place, only about 2,000 troops remained at that hour.

The rout of the main body of the retreating army was by the turnpike leading to Charlestown and Shepherdstown, but their precise destination was not known as they were lost in the distance, and no one was in the vicinity sufficiently informed to give the necessary information.

A rumor existed on both sides of the river that they had gone toward Winchester, whilst other parties suspected that they were going to Martinsburg, to make a stand in that vicinity.

At five o’clock this morning the Great bridge of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad over the Potomac was fired, and soon after a tremendous report was heard, caused by the explosion of mines under the centre span.

In one hour the entire structure was in ruins, and fell into the river. This was a noble work, one thousand feet long, built by Engineer Latrobe but ten years since, in the most scientific manner. It had six spans, and was built at a heavy outlay.

The damage to property has not ended here, but the Railroad Company and the United States have suffered further losses of valuable works.

The trestling on which the road was supported from the bridge to the end of the government property, about half a mile in extent, is nearly all destroyed, as well as an upper bridge of 120 feet in length over the government canal.

The telegraph station buildings and other railroad works are also demolished. The long range of substantial buildings formerly occupied as the government armory are burnt to the ground, with the exception of two buildings at the east end, near the Shenandoah river.—These will probably yet be burnt.

The fire has been raging all day, and when we left was just bursting out in the rear quarters.

The rifle works on the Shenandoah were fired this afternoon, and none of the government property remained except the dwellings for officers on the hill and two out of the twenty armory buildings. The arsenals were burnt in April by the government troops when its forces abandoned the place.

The loss to the government must be in buildings alone from four to five hundred thousand dollars, whilst the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company has suffered scarcely less, and it is believed that some of its equipments have been embraced in this wholesale ruin.

It is currently given out by the people of the neighborhood that the Railroad Company has incurred the serious hostility of the Confederate troops by the supposed want of concert it has shown with them, and by the marked loyalty of the employees towards the government. At Martinsburg, above Harper’s Ferry, some of the extensive workshops and engine buildings of the work are located, and there as well as at other places in the state of Virginia, the railroad men by an active Union sentiment are said to have been greatly instrumental in maintaining the loyalty that prevails along the line of the road.

The read men at Martinsburg numbers some 400, and there are said to be on the whole line of the road nearly 4,000, many of whom are thrown out of employment by the action of Virginia and the effects of the war on the building of engines, & c.

The turnpike bridge, at the mouth of the Shenandoah, is also to be burned. According to reports, every night some further destruction may be expected, as no United States troops are in sight, or reported as being sufficiently near the place to prevent it.


Richmond Daily Dispatch
June 19, 1861

The evacuation of Harper's Ferry.

Frederick, June 14

--It is here reported upon the authority of a messenger who arrived here this morning from within one mile of Harper's Ferry that the bridge across the Potomac at that point was blown up, and entirely destroyed between four and five o'clock this morning. The explosion was distinctly heard and the smoke seen by parties there.

It is reported that eight car loads of provisions were destroyed to prevent their falling into the hands of the Federalists, who were supposed to be concentrating upon Harper's Ferry from the direction of Greencastle and Cumberland.

the messenger further reports that all the troops have been withdrawn from the Maryland shore, and that the town of Harper's Ferry has been evacuated by the great body of the Confederate troops recently there. A small force is yet there, probably the rear guard of the retreating army.

The wife and family of Gen. Huger were at the Ferry last night, and had engaged a private conveyance from this city to take them to a point further southward, but were compelled to accompany the column in its sudden flight.

The destruction of the bridge may be regarded as certain. Confirmatory intelligence of the fact has been received here. A gentleman from this city, who was at Harper's Ferry last night, saw the preparations being made for the blowing up of the structure. The bridge at Shepherdstown was also burnt last night.


Another account.

Frederick, June 14

--Midnight.--The special agent of the Associated Press has just returned from the Maryland heights overlooking Harper's Ferry, which point he left after 7 o'clock this evening. The Contederate army has mainly left the place — only about 2,000 troops remained at that hour.

The route of the main body of the retreating army was by the turnpike leading to Charlestown and Shepherdstown, but their precise destination was not known, as they were lost in the distance, and no one was in the vicinity sufficiently informed to give the necessary information.

A rumor existed on both sides of the river that they had gone toward Winchester, while other parties suspected that they were going to Martiasburg, to make a stand in that vicinity.

At 5 o'clock this morning the Great bridge of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad over the Potomac was fired, and soon after a tremendous report was heard, caused by the explosion of mines under the centre span.

In one hour the entire structure was in ruins and fell into the river. This was a noble work, one thousand feet long, built by Engineer Litrobe but ten years since, in the most scientific manner. It had six spans, and was built at heavy outlay.

The damage to property has not ended here, but the railroad company and the United States have suffered further losses of valuable works.

The trestling on which the road was supported from the bridge to the end of the Government property, about half a mile in extent, is nearly all destroyed, as well as an upper bridge of 120 feet in length over the Government canal.

The telegraph station buildings and other railroad works are also demolished. The long cange of substantial buildings formerly occupied as the Government Armory are burnt to the ground, with the exception of two buildings at the east end, near the Shenandoah river. These will probably yet be burnt.

The fire has been raging all day, and when we left was just bursting out in the rear quarters.

The rifle works on the Shenandoah were fired this afternoon, and none of the Government property remained except the dwellings for officers on the hills and two out of the twenty armory buildings. The arsenals were burnt in April by the Government troops when its forces abandoned the place.

The loss to the Government must be in buildings alone from four to five hundred thousand dollars, whilst the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company has suffered scarcely less, and it is believed that some of its equipments have been embraced in this wholesale ruin.

It is currently given out by the people of the neighborhood that the railroad company has incurred the serious hostility of the Confederate troops by the supposed want of concert it has shown with them, and by the marked loyalty of the employees towards the Government. At Martinsburg, above Harper's Ferry, some of the extensive workshops and engine buildings of the work are located, and there, as well as at other places in the State of Virginia, the railroad men by an active Union sentiment are said to have been greatly instrumental in maintaining the loyalty that prevails along the line of the road.

The road men at Martinsburg number some 400, and there are said to be on the whole line of the road nearly 4,000, many of whom are thrown out of employment by the action of Virginia and the effects of the war on the building of engines, &c. The turnpike bridge, at the mouth of the Shenandoah, is also to be burned. According to reports, every night some further destruction may be expected, as no United States troops are in sight, or reported as being sufficiently near the place to prevent it.


Official account of the evacuation of Harper's Ferry.

The following dispatch has been received at the War Department at Washington:

Point of Rocks, June 15.

To Hon. Simon Cameron.

--We landed on the Virginia side of the Ferry at 2 o'clock P. M. We were the first Union men that crossed. We then passed over into the town, which was nearly desolate. There was not a solitary soldier visible. A few of the poorer classes were on the streets. The best houses were closed. The John Brown engine-house and magazine and armory buildings we have reported saved.

Three cars of grain and coffee for Winchester, for the engines to haul, were emptied into the river on Friday, and also a lot of cotton. The cars were marked "Miller Rifies, Winchester." Five trucks, loaded with machinery and pipes, stand in front of the hotel, marked "Richmond." Near the armory fifty flint-lock muskets were thrown into the river. Our boys are fishing them out. At the camp grounds, in the rear of the town, there was nothing left of any value. The town and surrounding country present the most desolate appearance ever seen.

The physician who was attending the troops says that in the Mississippi and Alabama troops about fifty were down with measies.

The troops were ordered to leave twenty-four hours before they did, and one of Johnson's staff said it was reported the Federal troops were going to take Winchester and fortify it, and cut them off. But they would now go there and be reinforced from Richmond. We found in the buildings burned in April, fifteen to twenty-two thousand musket barreis, gathered in piles.

The men were all uniformed according to fancy and the means of the town where they came from. No side arms were allowed in the camp, excepting for commissioned officers. The Kentucky and Mississippi troops said they came to fight, and were eager to go up and take Washington on their own account.

We secured a lot of bayonets and pieces of markets as momentors.

Left as 4 o'clock. The inhabitants are rejoicing over the evacuation. A piece of the Virginia flag, placed there in April, remains on the top of the pole. The rope is broken, and there is no flag of any kind in the town.

We saw a young man come down on the train that left the relay House at nine, with a sword and two trunks, by the weight of which we concluded they were no doubt percussion caps. He said at the Ferry he was going to Richmond, where he had command of a company of Baltimore men, adopted by the county. At Point of Pocks sixty-four cavalry were reported still across the Potomac.

The rear of the main body of troops were only ten miles from the Ferry at noon. I have the honor, &c.,

A. H. Painter.


Additional Erom Harper's Ferry — movements of the Confederates.

Hagerstown, June 15

--The express messenger of the Associated Press returned from Harper's Ferry this evening, where he spent several hours. He saw that all the Government buildings save two had been destroyed. The trestle work, three hundred yards in length, still hung in ruins. The bridge over the Shenandoah was still standing. People were moving up and down the canal on the opposite side of the river freely, although there were a few sentinels on the near shore, and two camps on the heights behind the town, containing 600 of the remaining troops, all of whom would be gone by to-night to follow the main body to Winchester. The greater part of the 14,000 troops stationed at the Ferry go southward to join Generals Besuregard and Lee's forces. The smaller body, it is believed, will march to join General Henry A. Wise, near Romney, who is to oppose the advance of Gen. McClellan's column from the West.

There was a dress parade of all the troops here this afternoon. They were drawn up in line in front of headquarters, and reviewed by Col. Heintzelman.

To-day we have had the hottest weather the troops have yet experienced. The thermometer stood at 105 degrees in the sun.

It was reported among the Secessionists at Vienna, fifteen miles out, this afternoon, that Federal forces are at Leesburg. The people there were in communication with the Confederates, their scouts being there up to yesterday.

Gen.Wise has 3,000 men at Staunton, one regiment of which is already on the march. A great number of small arms, said to be as many as 1,000, were thrown into the river by the Confederates before they commenced to evacuate the Ferry. Also a quantity of accoutrements. Boys and men were recovering them by diving. The whole place wears a desolate appearance Some of the large guns have only been removed a distance of six miles up the Shenandoah. It was reported at Harper's Ferry that all the engines below Opequan have been destroyed, also these at Martinsburg, numbering upwards of seventy at both places. The pickets of the Confederates opposite Williamsport returned to night, after an absence of two days. They are also reported to have returned to other Fords. Ex-Governor Manning brought the order to evacuate Harper's Ferry.

The messenger saw the Scott Legion on their march to-day; they looked well. He also saw the First City Troop — all in good health.


Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: June 1861

West Virginia Archives and History